Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024

Module CLAS2131: Crisis of the Roman Republic

Department: Classics and Ancient History

CLAS2131: Crisis of the Roman Republic

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • CLAS1301 or CLAS1731


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To provide a second-year core of Roman republican history, which will build upon and extend the learning experience of the new core material at Level 1.


  • The module covers the prolonged period of breakdown of Roman government from the mid second century BC.
  • During the Roman republic, each citizen functioned as peasant, soldier, and voter.
  • Prolonged warfare, imperial expansion, extension of the franchise, and political populism strained this system.
  • Demands for participation led to successive civil wars and attempts at reform or repression and initiative was grasped by popular leaders who were also warlords.
  • These recurrent factors are traced through the period which comprises the careers of Scipio Aemilianus, the Gracchi, Marius, Sulla, Pompey, and Caesar, and the rise of Octavian-Augustus.
  • Selected extracts from different types of source material will be studied in English translation; some visual and artefactual material will be addressed.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A knowledge of the period of change and breakdown of Roman republican government from the mid second century BC to the rise of Octavian-Augustus, and an understanding of the chief contributory factors: prolonged warfare, imperial expansion, extension of the franchise, political populism with demands for participation and reform; civil wars and warlordism; an understanding of issues of scholarly debate in the area studied.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • An understanding of the methodologies appropriate for evaluating and handling a range of evidence, including artefacts and visual material, as well a range of written texts (literary and otherwise), with greater awareness of problems inherent in using translated material; ability to engage with alien patterns of thought, culture, and expression; the ability to present a well constructed and well expressed written argument.
Key Skills:
  • The skills needed to handle a variety of written, visual and artefactual material, and to analyse and evaluate a range of evidence by means of various methodologies; the capacity to construct a clear and well-structured argument in written form, showing some awareness of counter-arguments; the ability and self-discipline to work autonomously and to organise one’s work so as to meet internal and external deadlines; ability to use key IT resources: in particular, the ability to use e-mail, word-processors, and online databases, with a grasp of the advantages and limitations of internet resources.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures are appropriate to the imparting of information and of methods of interpretation, of both ancient evidence and modern scholarship.
  • Classes on source material provide engagement with varieties of historical evidence.
  • Writing essays enables the assembling and evaluation of material and the formulation of logical and coherent argument, as well as skills in written English.
  • Tutorials contribute to the critical handling of evidence and facility of discussion.
  • Final examination tests ability to focus relevantly on historical issues and organise knowledge and argument appropriate to questions raised.
  • The essay assesses students' understanding of the methodologies for handling artefactual, visual and written material, and their ability to organise knowledge and argument appropriate to questions raised.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 22 1 per week 1 hour 22
Seminars 6 6 across Michaelmas and Epiphany Terms 1 hour 6
Preparation and Reading 172
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 30%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2500 words 100% Yes
Component: Examination Component Weighting: 70%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Unseen examination 2 hours 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

One formative exercise

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University